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Securing future-proof environmentally compatible bioenergy chains

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SECURECHAIN (Securing future-proof environmentally compatible bioenergy chains)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-07-31

SECURECHAIN focused on market uptake of bioenergy in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The main objective was to promote a Sustainable Supply Chain Management practice that meets highest environmental and financial viability standards and targets local biomass suppliers and energy producers. Unique features were that the entire bioenergy chain was considered, and sustainability and financing were an integral part of the setup. The project targeted SMEs in six model regions around Europe. Following an open contest for Innovation Vouchers, SECURECHAIN awarded 20 selected SMEs with a mentoring package to support their own proposed pilot project. The scope of the pilots is wide, from forest harvesting, optimised wood chips distribution logistics to complete electricity, heating and cooling supply chains. Learning Labs were conducted in each model region to promote the pilot projects and gather buy-in from stakeholders. A sustainability assessment including LCAs of pilots measured their direct and indirect impacts. A financial risk assessment of pilot projects guided SMEs towards potential investors and regional funding sources. Already during the SECURECHAIN project lifetime, the initiated pilot projects have achieved substantial results, both in terms of biomass mobilised, renewable energy generated, jobs created and investment triggered. Sustainable bioenergy projects are challenging for SMEs, because various business and environmental aspects along the whole supply chain play a role. SECURECHAIN demonstrated how a hands-on mentoring approach, using a combination of innovation tools such as vouchers, technical and financial advisors, trainings, LCA and certification, can effectively support SMEs to unlock the market uptake potential of bioenergy, and achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
SECURECHAIN’s technical support to SMEs’ pilot projects relied on constant feedback between the SMEs and the team of local and international experts. Dedicated tasks targeting Sustainability and Financing helped to enhance the pilot project business concepts. To stimulate local SMEs, an open call for promising pilot project ideas was launched simultaneously in all model regions. The scope of the call was - on purpose - broad and open to all SMEs in bioenergy, without any preference for a given fuel type or conversion technology. The pilot project idea, however, had to show good potential to foster biomass mobilisation and/or market uptake of efficient bioenergy systems. In an evaluation, all proposals were ranked according to six criteria, and the most suitable ones were selected (20 out of 40 submitted proposals).

The award of an innovation voucher entitled an SMEs to obtain dedicated advice from a local consultant of their choice, to support the proposed solution and their business plan. Furthermore, the SMEs benefitted from the expertise of the consortium, which offered tailored, individual advice including: i) Assessment of locally available biomass supplies, ii) Technical appraisal and testing of new or improved equipment, iii) Feasibility of supply chain configurations and logistics, iv) Life Cycle Assessments of greenhouse gas emissions, v) Cost-benefit analyses and exploitation calculations, vi) Financial risk analyses, investment scenarios, business plans, vii) Certification trainings and company pre-audits, viii) Trainings e.g. on biomass harvesting, quality and business plan development.

SECURECHAIN developed and tested this approach within a variety of companies and regional settings. In total 20 pilot projects were initiated, which cover the entire bioenergy chain, from biomass harvesting and fuel production to energy conversion and recycling. The topics covered reflect the variety of technical bioenergy solutions proposed by SMEs:
• Biomass harvesting (8 pilots): Efficient harvesting of forest residues; biomass trade centre, improved biowaste sorting; low-impact harvesting in landscape maintenance; biomass logistics and trade centres; fast growing tree plantations; mixed feedstocks; efficient bio-briquets production; strategic storage facilities for quality wood chips
• Fuel production (4 pilots): Up-scaling wood chips and pellet production and marketing; wood waste recycling for energy use in wood industries
• Energy conversion (6 pilots): Optimal biomass boilers for small municipalities; collaborative / district heating networks, efficient mixed fuels; renovated heating systems, cogeneration plants; improved biogas plant; small CHP plants for village communities;
• Ash recycling (2 pilots): Wood ash pellets fertilizer

To ensure participation of more market actors, the project organised a series of outreach activities. The Learning Labs included meetings and workshops to sensitise local stakeholders about sustainable biomass use and bioenergy. Other participative events involved training sessions to raise capabilities of market actors, company visits, B2B seminars, presentations at industry fairs and conferences, and roundtables with public authorities and decision-makers. During study trips to other countries (Germany, Sweden, Austria), participants could visit various bioenergy companies and learn about best practice and latest systems (benchmarking).
SECURECHAIN tested a broadly transferable practice for proactive promotion of sustainable biomass mobilisation and energy efficient solutions. Sustainable bioenergy projects are challenging for SMEs, because various business and environmental aspects along the whole supply chain play a role. Not every pilot project is a success story, but it increases the knowledge of the pilot owner and the involved stakeholders. An ex-post evaluation of the SMEs’ experience showed significant appreciation, especially of the networking activities. 70% of SME pilot project owners indicated that they had taken concrete actions based on their involvement in SECURECHAIN.

SMART performance criteria were assessed to measure the impact of each pilot at the end of the project. Substantial results were achieved (sum over all pilots, June 2018): i) Volume of additionally mobilised biomass 142,000 tons/year, ii) Final renewable energy production 2,300,000 GJ/year, iii) Reduced GHG emissions 40,100 tons CO2 eq./year, iv) Direct and indirect jobs created 90 FTE/year, Total investments triggered by the project 10.2 million EUR.

SECURECHAIN’s experimental test showed that a hands-on mentoring approach, using a combination of innovation tools such as vouchers, technical and financial advisors, trainings, LCA and certification can effectively support SMEs to overcome their specific challenges and unlock the market uptake potential of bioenergy. These tools work best when they are delivered by well-established local consultants or agencies. The successful results of 20 pilot projects show the potential of this method as a recommendable, transferable practice for support of market uptake by SMEs.

For further information please consult the Summary Report “SECURECHAIN : Small and medium enterprises securing future-proof bioenergy chains”, which includes a collection of 15 SME pilot project factsheets at http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.36351.10403 and the project website at www.securechain.eu.